Mass spectrometry (MS) is a powerful analytical technique that enables detailed chemical characterisation of both small and large molecules including transition metal complexes, cluster complexes, and molecules involved in bio-inorganic systems. From the original objective of simple mass analysis, the modern MS instruments have evolved and spread into other disciplines such as biology, chemical physics, material science, atmospheric sciences etc. The horizon of mass spectrometry is now quite vast encompassing structure, reaction mechanism, kinetics and dynamics of a reaction, atomic and ionic scattering phenomenon, gas phase chemistry, surface science – thus touching almost every topic of physical, organic, inorganic and analytical chemistry in the process.
The use of mass spectrometer is to measure the relative atomic mass of the element, to measure the relative atomic mass of the substance, identification of the organic substances and to find the presence of the isotopes.
In a mass spectrometer, molecules are ionised and broken down into positively charged fragments with different masses. These are separated and the relative amounts are recorded, giving the mass spectrum of the molecules. Different molecules have different mass spectra. The mass spectrum can be used to identify the substance.
Mass spectrometry has many applications in organic chemistry. It is used to analyse
- gases from the waste dump
- Organic pollutants in water
Modern spectrometer are much more sophisticated and used electrical detectors . These modern detectors are capable of detecting tiny amounts of substances- even less than one millionth of a gram. Mass spectrometer are used in conjunction with a process called gas chromatography to detect banned drugs taken by athletes. The spectrum obtained is compared with a computer database of spectra of known drugs. Mass spectrometer are also used to test for drugs by drug addicts. Extremely small mass spectrometer have been developed for used in space travels